Comics Alternative, Episode 293: Reviews of A Contract with God: Curator’s Collection, Egg Cream #1, and Hey Kids! Comics! #1 and #2

Time Codes:

blkfade

Welcome Sterg!

This week The Comics Alternative gets a new cohost: Stergios Botzakis! And on his maiden voyage, Sterg becomes an integral part in discussions of three unique titles. He and Derek begin with A Contract with God: Curator’s Collection (Dark Horse Books-Kitchen Sink Books). This classic of Will Eisner’s is reproduced in two beautiful volumes, one with the original pencils and another with the inks. This slipcased edition is a first for the podcast, as the Two Guys have never discussed anything like an Artist’s Edition or a Legacy Edition. As such, Sterg and Derek not only go through the specifics of Eisner’s four stories, but they spend a lot of time talking about process, Eisner’s original intentions, and the various insightful essays included in this two-volume set.

After that the Two Guys with PhDs turn to Liz Suburbia’s Egg Cream #1. The digital version of this was just made available to those who supported Czap Books’ Kickstarter campaign last year (and the print version will debut at MoCCA next spring). The core of this issue is the first installment of Suburbia’s Sacred Heart, Vol. 2 – Livin’ in the Future, a follow-up to her 2015 work, Sacred Heart. Sterg and Derek set a context by discussing the earlier book, then they explore the contours of the new work and how it expands upon the initial presentation of Suburbia’s broader narrative.

The guys wrap up with the first two issues of Howard Chaykin’s Hey Kids! Comics! (Image Comics). Both Sterg and Derek are fans of Chaykin’s work, although it’s been a long time since his comics were discussed on the show. This is a satiric look at the history of the American comic-book history, and the guys spend some time looking at Chaykin’s analogs to DC and Marvel as well as to such figures as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and Matt Baker, among many others. They also focus on the ways in which Chaykin structures his story, skipping around in time and representing a broad temporal overview, and they speculate on what Chaykin may be up to in his most recent project.

Comics Alternative, On Location: Talking with Creators at SPX 2018, Pt. 1

Time Codes:

blkfade

Small Is Good!

SPXBanner

This past weekend, Derek attended Small Press Expo in North Bethesda, MD. While there, he interviewed a variety of creators, some of whom he didn’t even know, about their recent releases and their upcoming projects. In this, the first of two on-location shows recorded at SPX, Derek talks with 15 different creators, with each brief interview lasting anywhere from 4 to about 17 minutes. Among the writers/artists/editors Derek talks with are Mike Freiheit, Madeline McGrane, Kelly Phillips and Claire Folkman, Karl Christian Krumpholz, Max de Radiguès, Ryan Holmberg, Scott Roberts, Nathan Gelgud, M. Dean, Emi Gennis, Alex Nall, Ash Thomas and Sara Guzman, and Ellen Lindner.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Summer Pierre

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:37 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:33 – Interview with Summer Pierre
  • 01:19:14 – Wrap up
  • 01:20:13 – Contact us

blkfade

Musical Definitions

The Two Guys were first introduced to the work of Summer Pierre during June of 2017. At the time, they were wanting to do a special episode of The Comics Alternative devoted to self-published creators, and John Porcellino recommended to Derek that they check out the work of Summer Pierre. At the time her minicomic Paper Pencil Life was at its fourth issue, and so they went to her website to get the full run of the title up to that point. They were impressed by her art and storytelling, and since then, Derek has made it a point of following Summer’s work. She had told him last year in an email that she planned to have a new graphic memoir coming out from Retrofit in 2018, and at this week’s Small Press Expo that book will officially debut. All the Sad Songs is a moving account of the role of music in Summer’s life, from the creation of mix tapes to her performances as a musician, and how that music is linked to key moments with her various relationships and her growth as an artist. In many ways this book is a work of remembrance, but it’s not soaked in the kind of nostalgia that would come across as sentimental. On the contrary, Summer takes a hard look at herself during those times in her life, bearing herself in ways that, at times, may be a bit uncomfortable. But her story is authentic and speaks from the heart. In this interview, Derek talks with Summer about the genesis of this project, her experiences writing in long-form narrative, the role that music has played in her life, and the potential pitfalls in writing about her past in such an open and honest way. This is an interview that’s been a long time in coming, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Comics Alternative, Episode 292: The September Previews Catalog

Strong Women, Crime, and The Beatles

It’s that time again, the occasion when Gwen and Derek meticulously go through the latest Previews catalog and highlight a variety of upcoming comics they find of note. For the month of September, they discuss a variety of  publishers and titles such as:

Comics Alternative Interviews: Tim Bird

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:23 – Introduction
  • 00:02:29 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:11 – Interview with Tim Bird
  • 01:00:17 – Wrap up
  • 01:00:53 – Contact us

blkfade

Mystery and Magic

The Great North Wood, which was just released through Avery Hill Publishing, is Tim Bird’s longest work to date. It’s the story of — or perhaps a better way of putting would be that it’s a history or a meditation on — an area in South London known for its wooded past. This includes areas such as Norwood, Gipsy Hill, Honor Oak, and Sydenham Hill Woods. In fact, as Tim mentions in the interview, Sydenham Hill Woods is really the last vestige of the heavily forested area south of London, and it’s where Tim and his family currently reside. What makes The Great North Wood stand out is Tim Bird’s use of geographic space to tell his story. As he and Derek discuss over the course of their conversation, character is at a minimum in Tim’s work, and he uses location and space to carry his narrative. What’s more, the creator often underscores the mystery and magic that has traditionally been a part of Britain’s wooded areas. Much of Derek’s talk with Tim centers on the new book, but they also discuss his previous comics, such as the various works in his Grey Area series, also published by Avery Hill. These are also largely based on location and geographic space, and Tim goes into detail about his evolution as an artist, working through his Grey Area comics to get to a place where he can more fully explore his surroundings in his latest book.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Keiler Roberts

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:24 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:41 – Interview with Keiler Roberts
  • 01:04:06 – Wrap up
  • 01:04:48 – Contact us

blkfade

Exposures 

In 2009 Keiler Roberts began putting out a series of self-published minicomics that she titled Powered Milk. These were brief stories and scenarios where she represented the experiences she had as a mother, wife, and friend. Many of the situations were observational in nature — for example, some of her Powered Milk comics were one-panel expressions of something off-beat and telling that her daughter, Xia, had said — but occasionally she would illustrate longer narratives that concerned her life as a mother. She has gathered these earlier minicomics in collections such as Powered Milk: Collected Stories and Miseryland. Last year, however, Keiler began turning to book-length format and publishing her Powered Milk stories, what she continues to call her work, through Koyama Press. In fact, Sunburning was one of the texts discussed last year during the publisher spotlight on Koyama Press’ spring 2017 releases. And this week we’ll see the release of Keiler’s next book, Chlorine Gardens. It’s a work that’s certainly in the Powered Milk spirit, but this book is notable in that Keiler engages more in long-form storytelling than she does in her previous comics. What’s more, and as Derek discusses with her, Keiler brings a structure to the various stories and observations that is more apparent than in the past. In this interview, Derek talks with Keiler about the evolution of her comics-writing, the role of journaling or diary illustration in her work, the process she undergoes in creating her stories, and the power — as well as the limitations — of exposing herself and her loved ones as subject matters for her narratives. Keiler has been on the podcast before, albeit briefly, during the 2016 Small Press Expo, an event at which she won an Ignatz Award for Best Outstanding Series, but this is a special occasion in that Keiler gets to discuss her work in a longer, more sustained manner.

Comics Alternative, On Location: The First September Visit to Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find

Legacies

It’s time for another on-location episode recorded at Heroes Aren’t Hard to Find in Charlotte, NC. In this first of two planned September visits, Michael and Derek talk with customers — Zyg, Brian, and Alonzo — and discuss some recent releases that strike their attention. Focusing on the mainstream, Michael highlights Fantastic Four #1. He discusses Marvel’s former flagship title’s return, and he goes on to speculate on the significance of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s creation…not only with the Marvel Universe, but for all comics. Derek focuses on a few non-superhero titles, including Christopher Sebela and Shawn McManus’s House Amok #1 (IDW/Black Crown), Eric M. Esquivel and Ramon Villalobos’s Border Town #1 (DC/Vertigo), and the first two titles in DC’s new Sandman initiative, The Sandman Universe #1 and The Dreaming #1.

With this episode, The Comics Alternative’s on-location series joins the Queen City Podcast Network!

Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of The Cardboard Kingdom, All Summer Long, and Be Prepared

Time Codes:

blkfade

“It puts the rust in rustic”

On this episode of the Comics Alternative’s Young Readers show, Gwen and Derek discuss summer 2018 new releases, all geared to middle-grade readers. The first text, edited and illustrated by Chad Sell, is The Cardboard Kingdom, released by Random House Graphic. Readers learn about the lives and dreams of a group of neighborhood kids in short stories written by Jay Fuller, David DeMeo, Katie Schenkel, Kris Moore, Molly Muldoon, Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, Cloud Jacobs, and Barbara Perez Marquez. The second text they discuss is Hope Larson’s All Summer Long from Farrar Straus Giroux. And finally, Gwen and Derek review Vera Brosgol’s long-awaited memoir, Be Prepared, released by First Second Books.

They start by reviewing a comic that demonstrates the experimentation that is currently taking place in the young reader category: Chad Sell’s edited collection of connected short stories, The Cardboard Kingdom. Set in a suburban neighborhood and featuring a truly diverse and engaging group of young kids, these stories show how imagination can function as a coping device. Young reader short story collections are not entirely new. Random House has also supported the Comics Squad series, edited by Jennifer Holm and a rotating cast of co-editors, that have included themed volumes on “Recess,” “Lunch,” and “Detention.” However, this short story collection boast only one artist, Chad Sell, and is presented as a cohesive narrative, with authors identified only at the end of the text. As such, the comic has a more cohesive feel, rather than a collection of fundamentally different stories that are linked only by theme.

After that, Gwen and Derek check out Hope Larson’s All Summer Long. This is the story of a 13-year-old, Bina, and her attempts to find meaning over the course of a summer. Growing up, she had been used to spending the summer with her best friend Austin, but during this particular summer, Austin goes off to soccer camp, leaving Bina to fend for herself. And part of this fending includes Austin’s aggressive older sister, Charlie. This is a book all about growing up and finding your way over the course of significant life changes.

Finally, Gwen and Derek discuss Vera Brosgol’s Be Prepared. This memoir focuses on the summer between 4th and 5th grades, when she attends Russian summer camp in the hope of finding friends with whom she will have something in common. The opening vignette in the novel focuses on young Vera’s sense of cultural and economic isolation: as an immigrant from Russia and the daughter of a single mom living in a prosperous east coast suburb, she is often slow to pick up on the latest trends — such as American Girl dolls — and unable to approximate the lavish birthday parties that her classmates’ parents are able to throw for their children. At the end of the school year, Vera listens to the plans that her friends are making, attending girl scout camp, taking vacations to faraway destinations…and she feels left out again. However, at the Russian Orthodox church that she attends, Vera learns from Ksenya, a Sunday school friend, about Orra, a Russian heritage camp, and she is certain that it will not only be fun, but will give her something to talk about with her school friends in autumn. While the experience is certainly life changing, it nonetheless becomes something quite different than what Vera had expected.

Episode 291: A Publisher Spotlight on Peow Studio

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:02:17 – Catching up with Gwen
  • 00:03:32 – Spotlight on Peow Studio releases
  • 01:09:53 – Wrap up
  • 01:11:33 – Contact us

blkfade

Something Very Different

This week Gwen and Derek focus their critical spotlight on recent releases from Peow Studio, a Swedish publisher of minicomics and longer narratives. As they point out, much of what is coming out from Peow is very creator-centered, personal, and even experimental in nature. This is a publisher that, while not well-known my many readers, deserves much more attention for the intriguing material that they release. While Gwen and Derek aren’t able to delve too deeply into each of the texts that they discuss, they do give a broad overview of the press, the kind of comics they publish, and some of the defining characteristics they see in their catalog. They primarily focus on the publications Peow has released over the past year and a half, including:

  • Internal Affairs – Patrick Crotty
  • Ripple – Wai Wai Pang
  • Rule Break – Anna Syvertsson
  • Dust Pam – Thu Tran
  • Salmon, Run! – Mackenzie Schubert
  • Stages of Rot – Linnea Sterte
  • Hot Summer Nights – Freddy Carrasco
  • 310,310 – Mushbuh
  • Devil Maybe Cry – Patrick Crotty
  • Yuri on Evangelion – Patrick Crotty
  • Dark Angels of Darkness – Al Gofa
  • Junky – Guillaume Singelin

 

Comics Alternative Interviews: Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt

Time Codes:

blkfade

Crowdfunded Death

In Crowded (Image Comics), the protagonist Charlie Ellison finds herself the victim of a crowdfunded assassination. That’s right, a crowdfunded assassination. Charlie lives a quiet, normal life, going about her daily routine as anyone would. But she soon finds herself under fire, hunted by all of Los Angeles with her potential killers fueled by crowdfunding platform Reapr. As a result, Charlie hires Vita, one the lowest-rated bodyguards employed by the Dfend, an app allowing you to hire protection. The two then go on a quest to discover who is behind Charlie’s crowdfunded contract, and do so without Charlie falling victim or Vita screwing up.

The first issue of Crowded was released in August, and last month Derek talked with the creators, Christopher Sebela, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt, immediately before the release date. The second issue will be coming out next week, on September 12. In this interview Derek talks with the creators about the ideas behind this project, the role that social media and technology plays in the series, how the three collaborate on each issue, and what we might expect as the series unfolds.

Comics Alternative, Webcomics: Reviews of Kochab, Alchemilla, and Zap!

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:25 – Introduction
  • 00:03:24 – Congratulations to Christina Merkler!
  • 00:04:48 – Kochab
  • 00:28:10 – Alchemilla
  • 00:58:38 – Zap!
  • 01:23:20 – Wrap up
  • 01:24:28 – Contact us

blkfade

It’s All about the Art

On the August episode 0f the webcomics — granted, a little late — Sean and Derek check out three titles where the art is incredible. They begin with Kochab, a YA fantasy about two young women, one a fire spirit, and their explorations of surroundings and self. After that they check out a most curious webcomic, Sara Valta’s Alchemilla. This narrative focuses on the struggles and encounters of Valo, a problematic adventurer, and Fabulous, the magical counselor of a crisis center for fanatical creatures. Sean and Derek wrap up with Zap!, a science fiction adventure, partly inspired by Star Wars, but instilled with a good bit of humor.

 

Comics Alternative, Episode 290: A Discussion of the James Bond Comics Published by Dynamite Entertainment

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:26 – Introduction
  • 00:02:36 – Setting a James Bond context
  • 00:04:59 – A discussion of the James Bond comics published by Dynamite Entertainment
  • 00:59:59 – Wrap up
  • 01:01:43 – Contact us

blkfade

Bond. James Bond.

This week’s episode of The Comics Alternative is special. Gwen and Derek devote their entire show to the the James Bond comics that have been coming out from Dynamite Entertainment for the past few years. They begin the show by sharing some of their own experiences with the James Bond franchise and how much it was a part of their childhoods. Then they get into the core of the show, discussing the eight James Bond trades, along with the recent six-issue The Body, that have been released since 2016. While they are unable to talk in detail about all of the works — after all, there’s a lot to cover — they nonetheless provide a broad overview of the various elements, themes, and styles that define Dynamite’s James Bond, plunging into deeper readings whenever possible. The various works they cover, along with the creators and years of trade publication, include:

  • Vargr – Warren Ellis and Jason Masters   2016
  • Eidolon – Warren Ellis and Jason Masters  2017
  • Hammerhead – Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida  2017
  • Black Box – Benjamin Percy and Ralph Lobosco. 2017
  • Felix Leiter – James Robinson and Aaron Campbell. 2017
  • Kill Chain – Andy Diggle and Luca Casalanguida  2018
  • Casino Royale – Van Jensen and Dennis Calero  2018
  • Case Files – Various creators (including the one-shots Service, Moneypenny, Solstice, and M)  2018
  • The Body – Ales Kot and various artists  2018

Comics Alternative, Manga: Reviews of Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1 and Slum Wolf

Time Codes:

blkfade

“There’s definitely some kind of cycling going on here”

This month Shea and Derek discuss two great works that bring back some older, or classic, manga. They begin with Leiji Matsumoto’s Captain Harlock: The Classic Collection, Vol 1 (Seven Seas Entertainment), a series that originally ran between 1977 and 1979. Captain Harlock is a classic science fiction work, and with a space pirate protagonist who can be seen as a romantic hero. The Two Guys discuss the figure of Harlock as a curious mixture, while at the same time trying to ferret out the his philosophy. In many ways, they see this manga anchored in its time, both aesthetically and politically. But this work definitely isn’t limited to it’s time and can be appreciated today.

Next they turn to Slum Wolf, another translated collection from Tadao Tsuge (New York Review Comics). An earlier collection of Tsuge’s work, Trash Market, was released in 2015 by Drawn and Quarterly (which the guys reviewed on their June 2015 episode). Slum Wolf is a collection of nine stories originally published between 1969 and 1978 in various publications such as Garo and YagyōIt also includes an essay by Tsuge, as well as a outstanding contextual essay by Ryan Holmberg, who also edited and translated the collection. The guys discuss all the stories, to greater or lesser degrees of depth, but they spend most of their time talking about the linking features that bind most of the narratives. As both Derek and Shea point out, this is one of the manga highlights of the year, so far.

Comics Alternative Interviews: Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky

Time Codes:

  • 00:00:24 – Introduction
  • 00:02:34 – Setup of interview
  • 00:04:37 – Interview with Sean Lewis and Caitlin Yarsky
  • 01:03:03 – Wrap up
  • 01:03:44 – Contact us

blkfade

Transformations

In November of last year readers saw the first issue of what was a brand-new series from Image Comics, Coyotes. It was the latest creation from writer Sean Lewis, who had authored other Image series including The Few and Saints, as well as writing recent titles for Aftershock such as Betrothed and Clankillers. For Coyotes, Sean chose as his illustrator a relative newcomer to comics, Caitlin Yarsky. While this is the first ongoing series where she provides all of the interior art, Caitlin’s work is a standout component and, in many ways, primarily defines the tone and sheer impact of Coyotes. As revealed in the first narrative arc, collected as a trade earlier this spring, Coyotes is about a young girl, name Red, who lives in a southwest border region fighting against a legion of wolves who prey upon women. She’s aided in her fight by the Victorias, an all-female society empowered by an earth goddess and united to fight against the masculinist lycanthropes. The series has a feel of a grand mythology, and it touches upon a variety of topics, including female empowerment, coming of age, and socio-industrial exploitation. In the first issue of the second narrative arc, there is quite a bit of backstory and context to the world Lewis and Yarsky establish in the first four issues, including a history of the Four Grannies of the Earth, the earth goddess Gaia, and the transformative nature of the lycanthropes. In this interview, Derek talks with Cailtin and Sean about their collaborative process, where they are in their story, and what plans they have for the series as a whole.

Comics Alternative, Episode 289: The August Previews Catalog

Witches and Adaptations

It’s that time again! It’s the beginning of the month, and the latest issue of the Previews catalog is out. And as they always do, the Two Guys meticulously go through the latest solicits, highlighting a variety of upcoming titles in Previews that they’re interested in or they think is worth considering. Among the many publishers and titles that they focus on in the August catalog include: